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Prescribed Burns

The Benefits of a Prescribed Burn

Over the millennia, natural fires caused by lightning strikes roared across the land. Fire also was intentionally set by indigenous people and early settlers to clear the land for better visibility, terrestrial movement, hunting, and to improve the habitat of the animals and plants that served as food resources. In current times, we use fire as a management tool to help restore our natural areas.

In prairies, the deeply rooted grasses and forbs easily withstand hot fires, as most of the plant mass is underground. Prairie and savanna systems need sun, but often trees and shrubs move into the open areas. Their shade is the demise of the sun-loving plants. Fire keeps the shade producers at bay. Prairies and wetlands are often burned in the spring. The blackened earth warms easily, allowing for improved conditions for seed and new plant growth.

In woodland areas, fire can kill saplings of invasive trees and shrubs like buckthorn and honeysuckle. Fire is a safe, economical and effective means of controlling these prolific plants that have severe, negative impacts on our native species. Thick stands of these invaders shade out and absorb most of the available nutrients, sunlight and water that their native neighbors need. Autumn is a preferred season for woodland fires in part due to drier conditions and fallen leaves can serve as additional fuel.

Without fire, staff and volunteers manually cut and chemically treat thousands of invasive saplings. Hours of tedious work are required, but a good fire can accomplish the task in a matter of minutes.

As the Park District continues to restore and improve the areas of natural space within our parks, we stay current with the latest management techniques. Fire is an important tool, and it will be utilized to our best ability.

Prescribed burns are approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Village of Glen Ellyn. A certified prescribed burn manager is present during the fire, trained crews are in constant communication, and neighbors and the emergency 911 system are notified in advance.  If you would like more information on burns and other ways we work to restore the land, please contact Renae Frigo at rfrigo@gepark.org.